Prisoner says Warren County jailers raped her, nurses refused to give her epilepsy medication

Lawsuit says she was 'tortured,' nurses covered up
Posted at 12:55 PM, Jan 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-31 10:55:08-05

CINCINNATI – A Cincinnati woman claims at least two corrections officers in the Warren County Jail raped her and nurses refused to give her prescribed medicine for her epilepsy, leading to seizures that left her debilitated in jail for 11 days.

Saying she was "tortured," the 38-year-old woman claims the jailers shattered bones in her shoulder during the rapes, used a stun gun on her more than once, took away her clothing, left her covered in her own blood and feces, shut off water to her cell and forced her to drink from a toilet.

"She was so desperate for help she attempted to write on the cell wall, in her own blood, 'God, please help me,'” according to a federal lawsuit filed Friday in Cincinnati.

The woman is suing two corrections officers -- one by name, one as a John Doe -- along with the jail's health services administrator and six nurses.

Warren County Chief Deputy Barry Riley told WCPO the sheriff's office cannot comment on pending lawsuits, then later issued the following statement: 

"The Warren County Sheriff’s Office does not comment upon pending legal matters. We believe strongly in pursing legal matters through the Courts, not the media. However, none of the citizens of Warren County should take our silence about the lawsuit filed by one of our former inmates as an indication that there is any truth to her allegations. We look forward to defending this case to a conclusion."

The suit claims the defendant nurses not only failed to provide adequate care, they lied to the head of the jail and the woman's attorney when they said they were giving the woman her medications.

WCPO is not naming the woman because she claims she was sexually assaulted. The defendants are not being named because they have not been charged with a crime.

One jailer accused of rape said he had sex with the woman but it was consensual. A hospital test identified sperm in the woman's urine. The woman said she was not able to identify the other men who sexually assaulted her.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Jennifer L. Branch, says the woman's withdrawal from her medication left her in a compromised state and that's when she was raped in her cell.

"In her cell she's put on her stomach. Three different officers in uniform are present," Branch told WCPO on Monday. "She can see parts of them and can hear their voices and she knows what they did to her."

The lawsuit says the Warren County Sheriff's Office investigated the accused rapes but did not collect forensic evidence from the woman's clothing, bed or cell or the lab results identifying sperm in her urine.

The jail disposed of the woman's plastic mattress that would have contained DNA and other forensic evidence, the suit says.

A Warren County assistant prosecutor did not conduct an independent investigation of the accused rapes or the conditions of the woman's confinement, according to the suit.

The FBI investigated the sexual assault but most of the forensic evidence had been destroyed, the suit says.

The woman entered the jail on May 3, 2013, according to the suit. It said she turned herself in on a four-year-old warrant for deception to obtain drugs.

The woman says she informed the nurses of her epilepsy and other medical conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, battered woman syndrome and depression, along with the medications she was taking. 

She said she told medical staff: "I need my medications now or I will have a seizure and withdrawing [sic]."

On the same day she was admitted, the jail staff falsely notified the woman's attorney that they were providing her medication, according to the suit.  

On May 5, the woman was given a mental health exam but no medications for her conditions, and they did not allow her to see a doctor, the suit says.

By May 7, the woman suffered seizures, exhibited bizarre and abnormal behavior, became disoriented, was unable to communicate and lapsed into unconsciousness, the suit says.

On that day, the jail reported to the court that she was too sick to attend her bond hearing, the suit says.

On the same day, the jail doctor ordered medication for the woman, but the defendant nurses did not give her the medications or tell the doctor that they didn't, according to the suit.

All of the defendant nurses knew of the woman's deteriorating conditions caused by denying her medications, the suit says.

The suit also makes several additional accusations against the jail's health services administrator. It said she:

  • Forged the woman's name on a medical release form to obtain her medical records.
  • Falsely reported to head of the jail that the woman had received seizure medication.
  • Told the head of the jail that the woman had not had a seizure and was "playing us."
  • Did not have the woman evaluated by a doctor.

On May 9, the woman was found unresponsive in the shower room. One of the nurses sent her to a local hospital and falsely reported that she was withdrawing from illegal drugs, the suit says. The jail did not tell the hospital about the woman's epilepsy or provide any medical records or information about her condition while in jail.

An hour later, the hospital released the woman back to jail.

The next day, the woman was still unresponsive and was taken to another hospital, the suit says. The hospital ran tests and assessed her as having an altered mental state, a history of epilepsy and an acute urinary tract infection. A urinalysis revealed sperm in her urine.

The hospital sent the woman back to jail with a prescription for an antibiotic to treat the infection. But the defendant nurses did not give it to her, the suit says.

Over the next three days, the woman became "catatonic and psychotic," but was still given no medications, according to the suit.

On May 14, the woman was "found naked in her cell, crying an mumbling," and was sent to a psychiatric hospital, Summit Behavioral Center, the suit says. She was diagnosed with "psychosis induced by the trauma of the sexual assault" at the jail, the suit claims.

The woman eventually received "proper treatment of her epilepsy and trauma [and] her condition improved," according to the suit.

"She was stable enough to be released on July 11, 2013," the suit says.

Branch acknowledged that a previous law firm had the woman's case and decided not to move forward with it.

"The case was filed by another law firm and after about six months they dismissed the case. They didn't give a reason," Branch said.

The defendants will be served with the complaint and they will have 30 days to respond.